New fall series hope for overseas interest

Now that U.S. audiences have demonstrated which new TV shows they find most appealing, the Hollywood studios are ready to whet the appetite of global buyers as well.

The 23rd Mipcom opens today in Cannes with a healthy 12,500-plus participants on hand to buy and sell. Studios will be looking to add more product to the lineups of top broadcasters around the world that feature plenty of Yank programming, including heavyweights such as TF1 in France, RTL in Germany and Five in the U.K.

By the time they get off the plane in Nice, sellers will have a definite sense of what shows may have a longer shelf- life than others and what they should be pushing. The majority of fall series have already premiered in the States, and those with healthy initial ratings will certainly keep business brisk.

Warner Bros. has high hopes for “Pushing Daisies,” and the series got off to stellar start Wednesday night on ABC with one of the best launches for any new show. With plenty of marketing muscle behind it, “Daisies” blossomed in the 8 o’clock hour and looks to be a solid longtime player (assuming there’s not a drastic dropoff of viewers in week two).

“We’re optimistic and enthusiastic about our slate, which is diverse and watchable, vs. last year, where our shows were serious and complex,” said Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger. “These are easy on the eyes in many ways.”

For the most part, serialized shows — “The Nine,” “Kidnapped,” “Vanished,” “Smith” — failed last year and are out of the picture. The current trend on the Croisette is toward more fun, less viewer-intensive shows. Geeks are a hot item, with such Warner Bros. series as “Chuck,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Aliens in America” all nerd-friendly.

Other skeins to come out of the gate fast in the ratings are NBC Universal’s “Bionic Woman” and Disney’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice.”

“Bionic Woman,” an update of the iconic 1970s series, was tracking well before launching Sept. 26, and the solid premiere will give topper Belinda Menendez and her NBC U team plenty with which to persuade global buyers that they should give the show a chance, despite the fact that the second airing dropped off by about 25%.

CBS Paramount is enthusiastic over the Jimmy Smits starrer “Cane,” which focuses on a wealthy Cuban family living in Miami.

Armando Nunez Jr., who heads the studio’s international TV division, finds himself in a different situation this year as the Eye isn’t invested as heavily in procedurals as it has been in the past. Skeins such as “Cane,” “Swingtown” and “Viva Laughlin” are a far cry from the self-contained, easy-to-digest episodes in the “CSI” franchise.

That said, he’s confident these new shows will still travel overseas.

“Irrespective of procedurals or not, the trend of high-quality, good-looking productions that have the potential to export well continues,” Nunez said.

Twentieth Century Fox journeys to the French Riviera with “Journeyman,” which didn’t exactly set the ratings world afire after its preem on NBC. On the comedy side, “Back to You,” starring TV vets Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, will be available, but American sitcoms sometimes have a more difficult time finding success overseas.

Sony is bringing the FX legal drama “Damages,” starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson, two actors who are recognized all over the world — certainly an advantage for the studio, according to topper Michael Grindon.

“Glenn Close has global appeal,” Grindon said. “You’ve immediately got an audience who wants to watch it, and it’s a real advantage in that it gets press stories.”

Also at the mart, Comedy Central’s bombastic TV pundit Stephen Colbert is going global with the launch of “The Colbert Report Global Edition.” MTV Networks Intl. is rolling out a customized version of the cabler’s hit series, complete with segments featuring Colbert riffing on international themes. The new 40-episode half-hour has been especially adapted for international auds and will be distributed alongside the original series.

One early deal: Sony Pictures Television Intl. has commissioned reality format “Six Degrees of X” for its AXN channel. Testing the theory that all people are connected by six degrees of separation, the show has contestants competing to find their links to a celebrity guest star. Carmen Electra will be the focus of the first episode. Skein is the first series from a development deal between SPTI and Los Angeles-based Base Camp Films.

Keeping in mind that the studios also bring their feature films to Cannes, Sony will be selling “Spider-Man 3,” and MGM will be offering up the new Tom Cruise film, “Lions for Lambs.” As it has for many years, the Lion also has the “Stargate” TV franchise.

Away from the buying and selling, CBS honcho Leslie Moonves will be honored as the Mipcom personality of the year. Among the numerous panels on tap, newly crowned NBC entertainment head Ben Silverman and Paula Wagner, CEO of United Artists, will share their thoughts on the state of the global entertainment biz.

As there has been for the past few confabs, there will be plenty of talk about how the television business is adapting to the digital distribution landscape. Also, Mipcom will have a special focus on India, the world’s third-largest TV market.

(Ed Meza and Dominic Schreiber contributed to this report.)

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